There are many things that affect the condition of your concrete parking facility. Weather, loading, improper drainage and poor construction all can take their toll, making regular inspection and maintenance a necessity.
Concrete cracking and deterioration is going to happen. You need to anticipate it, and know what steps to take when it does. Waterproofing, especially in parking structures, is one of the most important things asset owners and managers can do to maintain their property.
Waterproofing, or liquid-applied surface sealer, runs about $4 per square foot, and should be applied every 10 years, at least to the top level. Every four to five years, you should apply a light coat of the sealant all over, and touch-up trouble areas. If moisture gets in the concrete, the steel reinforcement will rust. Rust causes the steel to expand, which will break apart the concrete.
This is especially a problem with parking structures, as salt and carbon monoxide can accelerate the corrosion.
Robert Christensen, owner of Christensen Property Management, wishes he would have waterproofed his parking garage. Water got into the structural edge of the building, causing the reinforcement and concrete to deteriorate. It ended up costing his company $75,000 to repair the damage that a $35,000 waterproofing job could have prevented. If he would have done proper maintenance on the structure, it probably would have lasted him another 25 years.
In addition to waterproofing, you need to make sure your structure has adequate drainage. It is not enough that your garage has rooftop drains built into it. Are they in the correct places? Maybe not … buildings settle after construction and you may need to relocate your drains.
& #711; Don’t Do As Much
As They Should
Property owners in Southern California don’t do as much maintenance as they should. In fact, probably only 10-20 percent of Southern California property owners invest in waterproofing their structures. Fortunately, we don’t have the extremely damaging environmental effects of freeze/thaw and road salting that most of the country has.
Due to our low humidity, we don’t even see the corrosion from salt in the air that most coastal cities experience. Not as much as you would expect, anyway.
Regular inspection of your structure is prudent. You should do a thorough inspection of your building at least once a year. Walk through and look for abnormalities, mainly cracks.
It is usually recommended to owners that, if they see a new crack to: take a marker, mark the ends of the crack, and write the date right on the concrete. Then, go back in a few weeks. Has it grown? If so, you could have a major problem on your hands.
The foundation could be settling , causing the building to rupture and deform. Structural cracks usually need to be repaired with an epoxy injection, once the source of the cracking is resolved.
Another maintenance issue is load. Do you know how much weight your structure will bear? Case in point: During construction of a major hotel in Downtown San Diego, a contractor was dumping earth on the top floor of the newly erected parking garage, as there was no other space to store it. The structure almost collapsed, as it could not bear that heavy of a load.
& #711; Costs Thousands
To Repair Damage
Part of the garage had to be rebuilt , it probably cost them a few hundred thousand dollars to repair the damage to what was a brand-new $2 million garage.
Due to the fact that not many owners in Southern California properly maintain their parking structures, it is imperative that , if you are thinking about purchasing property , you contract experts to do a thorough inspection.
Scott Dale, vice president of acquisition and sales for R & V; Management, an apartment and retail asset manager, hires a structural engineer to inspect a property before the company purchases it.
They have a deal going through right now for a 94-unit, four-story apartment complex situated above a parking garage. Upon inspection, it was noticed that the developer had repaired some post-tensioned cables in the garage. Further inspection revealed that the building had shifted, as the stucco was cracked in some areas.
They are now in the process of evaluating the situation to determine if the shift was related to the cable repair. They are still going to purchase the property, but for less money.
Concrete maintenance can be quite costly, but the cost of replacement is even higher. Without maintenance, your structure probably has a life of about 15 years. With proper maintenance, you can increase the life to 50 or 60 years.
& #711; Thorough
If regular maintenance has not been done on your parking structure, you should contact a structural engineer to do a thorough inspection. The structural engineer can also establish a personalized inspection program, and educate your facilities personnel on how to perform inspections between visits from an expert.
Northcutt, is president and founder of San Diego-based Structural Technology Consultants, providing structural engineering, signage engineering, seismic retrofit design and expert witness service for projects throughout the United Sta